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Steelers’ Kenny Pickett has had “good conversations” with Arthur Smith amid offseason work

One of the easier-to-detect elephants in the room this NFL offseason is the uncomfortable truth the Steelers face with Kenny Pickett.

The incoming third-year quarterback has been unquestionably disappointing through two seasons, starting just 24 games and throwing for as many touchdowns (13) and interceptions — not to mention a meager 179 yards per game. Even as Pickett returned from an ankle injury last year, Pittsburgh benched Pickett for Week 18 and the postseason, turning instead to Mason Rudolph with its fate on the line.

Even those in Pickett’s camp acknowledge that 2023 didn’t go as planned, with a source close to the quarterback recognizing that last season was one fraught with unexpected difficulties. However, ahead of his third stint with the team, the source expressed confidence in Pickett to not be fazed by past struggles.

“With him, I’m not worried,” the source said, mentioning that other quarterbacks would raise concern in similar shoes.

In the upcoming days, weeks and/or months, the Steelers seem very likely to add under center, either in the form of a true starter or someone to compete with Pickett. Whether that’s Russell Wilson, Justin Fields or someone else, Pickett’s time as the unchallenged QB1 in Pittsburgh seems to be fraying to a near tear.

Amid rumors swirling of additions, though, Pickett has already begun forging a relationship with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. The source close to Pickett said he’s “had some good conversations” with the former Atlanta Falcons’ head coach as he gets ready to learn a new playbook and system, specifically with a focus on extra tight ends and more play action.

In particular, the source explained that Matt Canada’s system, which Pickett ran for the better part of two seasons, was devoid of balance — almost exclusively passing in the shotgun instead of under center. The data backs that up: the Steelers passed on just 16.9% of plays under center, well below the league-average mark of 27% last year.

Regarding Pickett’s focuses in training, the source mentioned footwork and staying in the pocket, the latter of which has become a major recurring issue for the former first-rounder’s development. However, the source noted that it’s hard to completely simulate that type of pressure, and hanging in rather than bailing, if not in an 11-on-11 situation.

When offseason workouts begin in mid-April, there’s a strong chance that Pickett will begin competing to try to retake the reigns of Steelers starting quarterback. Until then, it seems the former Pitt product is focusing on what he can control.


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